How to - Gardening Basics

10 mistakes to avoid at the nursery

Don't make any plant purchases without having these savvy gardening tips close at hand

Mistake 6: Not checking the roots
Explore your roots. Make sure your plant isn’t root bound. All you need is a quick check of the bottom of the plant to make sure that there isn’t a mass of roots coming out of the holes in the bottom of the container. A tangle of too many roots can rob the plant of nutrients. Similarly, make sure that the plant has some roots—if you’re not sure if the plant is mature enough to take home, ask your nursery specialist.
Mistake 7: Forgetting your shopping list
Like any kind of shopping, if you don’t bring your list, you may end up with too many impulse purchases. Even if you’re not sure exactly what cultivars you want, try to go to the nursery with a realistic idea of the dimension of your garden as well as the climate and soil conditions of your garden.
Mistake 8: Buying a plant without an identifying tag
Designer or no-name? As with many products, there are generic versions of plants as well as patented commercial varieties. Generally speaking, the designer cultivar is often more expensive. Whether the extra expense is worth it is entirely subjective, but one thing is for sure: make sure your plant DOES have an identifying tag on it (designer OR generic) before you buy it. If the plant is unlabelled, avoid buying it (even if you think you recognize it)—you may end up with something that grows four feet tall when you were only expecting it to grow to two feet!
Mistake 9: Throwing away your receipts
Keep your receipts. A lot of nurseries offer one-year warranties for their plants. It is definitely worth it to keep all of your receipts in order to return the plant if it develops issues and doesn’t survive. But be fair to the nursery: if you don’t water or care for your plants properly, don’t expect the nursery to pay for your mistakes.
Mistake 10: Procrastination
How many times have you gone to the garden centre, bought a few flats of plants and then brought them home, planning on planting them later. And then you don’t get around to it right away. If you wait too long to put the pots in the ground, the plants may dry out and die. Try to shop early in the morning so that you can plant your purchases as soon as you get home. To figure out where they should go, you can position them around your garden while they’re still in their pots before you plant them.

Erin McLaughlin is the Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Gardening magazine.

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